Kindergarten Awards Ceremony

June 7, 2008

So, yesterday morning Dan and I attended the awards ceremony for kindergarten classes at Sophia’s school.

Sophia has had a stellar year in kindergarten. She is reading on an almost third grade level. She has never had her card moved on the behavior chart (students go from green at the beginning of the day to yellow as a warning and then red if they’ve been really naughty). She ranked in the 99th percentile for reading and the 98th percentile for math on the Stanford standardized tests that they took in March. She was the top seller for the whole school in the fall fundraiser. She completed a reading log for five months, which earned her a special field trip to the zoo.

I am proud of my girl, not just for her academic achievements but also her enthusiasm and her desire to learn. She wants to do well — she wants to get good grades and be well-liked and follow the rules. Sometimes, watching her, my heart aches because I see in her the little girl that I used to be.

And yesterday, as the awards ceremony was drawing to a close, I had one of those grade school flashbacks.

Each kindergarten teacher had come up with an award for every student in their class. The awards ranged from “Best Smile” to “Most Helpful” to “Most Athletic.” Every student got an award, and I think that is great. I’ve seen first hand from volunteering in Sophia’s classroom how desperate some of these children are for a word of praise, a compliment, a positive reflection of who they are. I clapped and cheered for each of the children in Sophia’s class because I have come to know and love all of them over the course of this year.

Sophia got the “Excellence in Reading” award, as I expected she would.

After the three classes got their awards, the principal stepped up to the podium and began to give out awards for attendance. They did this when I was a kid too, so I wasn’t surprised by it. However, one child in the kindergarten classes had achieved truly perfect attendance — he not only hadn’t been absent, but he had also never been dismissed early or brought in late. He had been in school from start to finish every day, all year long. We clapped for him as we had the other students, but the principal decided to kick it up a notch.

He exclaimed that the child was the only one in the whole school of over 400 students to achieve perfect attendance. Then he told us to give the child a standing ovation. I complied, feeling like a hypocrite because (a) I think there are more important school achievements than just showing up and (b) I knew that the reason the principal was making such a big deal over it was because the school’s performance is partially based upon student attendance.

I looked over at my daughter. She was fighting back tears, and I knew exactly why.

As soon as they dismissed us to go have refreshments in the gym, Sophia ran over to me.

“Hey honey! What’s the matter?” I asked, trying to be casual.

“I don’t know, Mom! I just need you. Come to the bathroom with me!” (This is her way of saying “I’m about to have a total meltdown and I need a safe place where I can boo hoo without anyone but you knowing.”)

When we got into the bathroom, she tried to articulate why she was upset, but I already knew. She wants to be the best. She wants to be the one with the principal singing her praises. And gradually, through fits and starts and choking sobs, that’s what she tells me.

So Dan and I did the best we could to reassure her that perfect attendance is not the be-all and end-all of education. That being a good student is more important than just showing up every day. But most of all, we reassured her that we were so very proud of her and the accomplishments she’d made this year.

(This experience even inspired Dan to blog, which hardly ever happens. You can read his thoughts about it here.)


  1. […] experience at Sophia’s kindergarten awards ceremony.  You can read the whole thing here, or if you’re more of a bottom line person, here’s the […]

  2. That’s right! Poo-poo another child’s achievements so that your child doesn’t feel bad. You should be ashamed of yourself. Instead of belittling the child with prefect attendance, you should have encouraged your own child top strive for it.
    Parents like you make me sick!

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